In search of the perfect Commander – Part I
When we build a new Brawl deck, our first impulse might be to look for a really strong Commander, and build the deck around it. If it can kill our opponents, build an overwhelming board state, or destroy their ability to fight back, it would seem like a good idea, but
because – at least in competitive multiplayer Brawl, it doesn’t actually work.
Firstly, there’s no Commander damage in Brawl, which was a good decision for the game, but it does mean that even a Commander with 5 or 6 Strength isn’t likely to be swinging for the kill.
But the main, and possibly unexpected reason why overwhelming your opponents or destroying their ability to fight doesn’t work is because they’ll have no fun playing against you.
Forcibly overwhelming opponents will by definition make them effectively powerless. It’s hard for them to enjoy that in a game, and if you removed their ability to fight back too, they’ll enjoy it even less.
This won’t be effective because it offers your opponents an impoverished choice, to either
- Allow you to play your game – making them miserable; or
- Prevent you playing your game, meaning you’ll lose
And once they realise this is their choice, the human condition means (as any half-assed Buddhist will tell you), they’re going to choose the latter.
This is another reason why 2-Player and multiplayer Brawl are such different games, because the effect of the mechanism is increased as the number of people who’ll feel aggrieved by your game increases.
In respect of making your opponents feel aggrieved, we really need to talk about Yarok, the Desecrated, from Core 2020.
Yarrok’s ability to trigger your Enter The Battlefield twice is incredibly strong, but it doesn’t just make you twice as effective; it also makes your opponents twice as ineffective – and they’ll hate that.
Once Yarok is on the field and doing its thing, not only are your opponents likely to lose, they’re likely to lose badly. So it may be a great card, but it’s an absolutely terrible multi-Brawl Commander because it will repeatedly hand you game losses from a table of resentful players.
There are plenty of other examples of Commanders that are too strong to play nicely with the other kids. Golos, Tireless Pilgrim (in combination with Field of the Dead) was one, and Omnath, Locus of Creation was another.
A cynic might say that Wizards know all about these overpowered cards and combinations but publish them anyway so they can later ban them as part of their ongoing commitment to corporate virtue signalling. I’m sure I couldn’t possibly comment.
In my opinion, the perfect Commander for Multi-Brawl should not itself provide overwhelming advantage or spoil your opponents’ games like this, but instead provide alternative and less obvious qualities.
I’ll take a look at those qualities and some of the candidates in the Search for the Perfect Commander Part II.